Making the Switch From Gambling Machines to Table Games

Man With Arms Out With a Casino Background

I recently wrote a post about switching from slot machines to video poker games, and if you’re insisting on playing gambling machines, I’m convinced that this is a switch you ought to make.

But, if I really had my druthers, I’d prefer that you switch from gambling machines to table games.

In this post, I explain why you SHOULD switch from gambling machines to table games, and I offer suggestions for how you can go about that in as painless a fashion as possible.

Gambling Is Entertainment and Has a Cost

I’ve written about this so much that you might be tired of reading it, but you need to consider casino gambling as an entertainment expense with a specific cost. That cost, in the long run, is determined by how much money you wager and how high the house edge is.

How much money you wager is determined by the size of your wagers and how many wagers you make.

For example, if you bet $10 on average every time you place a bet, and you place 100 bets, you’ve put $1000 into action.

If you’re playing a game with a house edge of 5%, you’re expected to lose an average of $50 on that kind of action.

Closeup of a Three Reeled Slot Machine

If you’re playing a game with a house edge of 1%, you’re expected to lose an average of $10 on that kind of action.

The conclusion here is obvious – with everything else being equal, gambling on games with a lower house edge costs you less money.

If you can get similar entertainment for less money, it usually makes sense to do so.

It’s like deciding to spend $10 a year on Showtime instead of paying $50 a year for HBO. It’s a no-brainer. The only difference is the programming.

When it comes to casino games, the programming is equivalent to the games you’re playing.

The Number of Bets You Make per Hour

Suppose you’re playing roulette for real money. How many bets per hour can you make at the roulette table?

At an average roulette table, you’re probably looking at about 45 spins per hour. If you’re playing for $5 per spin, you’re putting $225 into action per hour at the roulette table.

Most people already know that roulette has a house edge of 5.26%. This means your estimated loss for an hour of roulette play is $11.84.

The decision you need to make is whether roulette is $11.84 per hour worth of entertainment.

Let’s contrast this with an average slot machine game, though. Strike that. Let’s contrast it with a GOOD slot machine game.

Even the best slot machine games have a house edge of at least 6%, but the average slots player makes 500 to 600 spins per hour. For the sake of this example, let’s assume you’re a slower player making 500 spins per hour. If you’re playing for $3 per spin, you’re putting $1500 per hour into action, 6% of that action is $90.

You’re losing eight times as much at that slot machine per hour than you would be at the roulette table, even though the house edge is close to the same and the amount wagered per bet is similar.

The big difference is how many bets per hour you’re getting in.

Think about it.

You’re betting 60% of what you’re betting at the roulette table, but every hour, you’re losing eight times as much.

THAT is the effect of bets per hour.

There’s More to Account for Than Just That

I’ve suggested in previous posts that you should switch from slot machines to video poker machines. That’s simply based on the big difference in payback percentage. The best slot machines only have a payback percentage of 94%, while the worst video poker games have a payback percentage of 95% or higher.

Since you’ll play about as many hands of video poker per hour as you would spins of the slot machines, the difference in the cost to you is dramatic.

And you’ll find outliers, too, but the outliers in video poker tend toward having a super-low house edge. The outliers in slot machines tend to lie in the other direction.

Multiple Rows of Video Poker Machines

For example, without TOO much trouble, you can find video poker games where the house edge is less than 1%.

On the other hand, it’s easy to find slot machines with a house edge of 25%.

Even so, you should play table games.

This is because the rate of play on a video poker game is so high that it compensates for the low house edge.

For example, you might decide your game of choice is going to be blackjack. With perfect blackjack strategy and the right rules in place, you’re looking at a house edge of 0.5%.

You can get an approximately 0.5% house edge playing video poker, too, if you find a full-pay Jacks or Better game and play with optimal strategy.

You’ll probably need to place a minimum $5 bet at the blackjack, and, at the Jacks or Better game, you’ll probably need to bet $1.25 per hand.

But at the blackjack table, you’ll probably only play 75 hands per hour.

At the video poker game, you’ll probably play at least 600 hands per hour.

What does this do to your average hourly loss?

At the blackjack game, you’re looking at 75 hands/hour X $5/hand X 0.5%, or $1.88 in hourly losses.

At the video poker game, you’re looking at 600 hands/hour X $1.25/hand X 0.5%, or $3.75 in hourly losses.

You have a video poker game with the same house edge and a significantly lower wager per round, and you’re still losing twice as much per hour as you would at the blackjack table.

Blackjack for the win.

Don’t Just Play Any Casino Table Game

I always suggest that you try to limit your gambling to bets with a house edge of less than 1.5%.

You don’t have to always pick the game with the lowest house edge. Maybe you hate blackjack, for example, or maybe you don’t want to mess with basic strategy.

It’s okay to choose other table game bets with a low house edge.

One example of a great table game bet is the pass line bet in craps. The house edge is only 1.41%, and you don’t have to worry about making any decisions.

Also, when you place a pass bet in a craps game and the shooter sets a point, you get to place another bet – the free odds bet. This bet has a house edge of 0%.

Craps isn’t the only casino game besides blackjack with bets with a house edge of lower than 1%, though.

Red Rock Casino High Limit Tables

Baccarat is another example of a casino game with a low house edge that doesn’t require any decisions on your part. Just don’t ever place the tie bet.

The house edge on the banker bet in baccarat is 1.06%, making it one of the better bets in the casino. The only catch is that baccarat is normally played for higher stakes than most other table games.

It’s not that hard to find a blackjack game with a $5 minimum bet, but good luck finding a baccarat game with a minimum bet of less than $25

And that tie bet in baccarat?

It pays off at 8 to 1 odds, which is nice when you hit.

The problem is that it’s a sucker bet. The house edge on the tie bet is a whopping 14.36%.

Other Differences Between Table Games and Gambling Machines

The difference in the house edge and the relative estimated cost per hour isn’t the only consideration when deciding between table games and gambling machines.

When you’re playing table games, the level of human interaction goes up considerably. No matter what table game you choose, you’re at least going to have to interact with the dealer.

You’re usually going to have other players at the table, too, but the amount of interaction with those other players depends on how gregarious you’re feeling (and how gregarious they’re feeling.)

When you’re playing table games, you’ll need to buy in at the table and convert your cash into chips. When you’re finished, you must take the chips to the chip cage to swap those chips out for cash money.

With gambling machines, you usually just insert cash into the machine and get credits. When you’re done playing, you get a ticket back. You can use this ticket to play other gambling machines, but you can also cash it in at various spots in the casino.

But, really – switching from gambling machines to table games is easy to do and well worth the trouble.


Should you make the switch from gambling machines to table games?

Unless you’re incredibly introverted and shy, yes, you probably should make the switch. There aren’t a lot of perks to table games that will make a difference to the average player.